Keep calm and carry on is the All Blacks motto this week but their Covid outbreak presents major disruptions – particularly amid the risk of further spread within the squad – before confronting the
significant Irish challenge at a sold-out Eden Park on Saturday.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, forwards mentor John Plumtree and defence specialist Scott McLeod beaming into zoom meetings from home isolation is far from ideal preparation for a test in which the team is already expected to be rusty.
The art of coaching is often acting instinctively based on what you see and feel. Achieving that from afar is near impossible.
No matter which way you spin it, thrusting attack coach Brad Mooar into holding the fort is well down the list of contingency plans.
Mooar joined the All Blacks via the Crusaders after a brief stint as head coach of Welsh side Scarlets where he was highly regarded. Stepping up to effectively run the All Blacks on the ground five days out from a headline test is a big ask.
Moving from zoom meetings to individual player sessions to the training field is enough to leave anyone's head spinning.
Joe Schmidt's addition should help lighten the load. From an Irish standpoint Schmidt's injection certainly elevates the opening test spice from medium to pass-a-glass-of-milk hot.
In a professional coaching context Schmidt's original decision of wanting to sit out the highly-anticipated three test Irish series, before joining the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship, always seemed strange.
Schmidt has Irish friends scheduled to stay at his house during this tour and after seven years (2013-19) leading Ireland he wasn't comfortable being painted as an instant adversary.
With circumstances dictating he is needed now, however, Schmidt's start date as a broadly termed selector/analyst has been fast-tracked.
If it is good enough for Brendon McCullum to immediately bring down his former Black Caps teammates, why should Schmidt shy away from Ireland?
The five coaching and playing absences will challenge a side that savours stringent structure but the All Blacks are sure to benefit from Schmidt's extensive inside Irish knowledge and demanding hands-on presence at training. His contributions to the Blues in a part-time capacity this year were clearly evident.
With McLeod absent from training this week, defence is the area Schmidt may seek to add his greatest input but he will no doubt be encouraged to add dollops of intel wherever he sees fit.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell must be uneasy at the prospect of his former boss dishing the dirt on senior players' individual tendencies and style of play.
Farrell has other complications to consider, too, after Australian-born wing Mack Hansen tested positive for Covid while British and Irish Lions lock Iain Henderson and hooker Rob Herring suffered knocks in training.
Ireland's best chance of rattling the All Blacks loomed in the opening test. The fallout from losing three coaches and two players – Crusaders midfielders David Havili and Jack Goodhue – to Covid only enhances that theory.
Every first test of the year a whiff of vulnerability envelopes the All Blacks as they attempt to chug through the gears.
The All Blacks have savoured little more than a week together as a full squad following the Super Rugby final. Established combinations, particularly in the midfield, are yet to be fully formed, and Ireland should arrive well in tune after facing New Zealand Māori in Hamilton midweek.
Despite the All Blacks last losing at Eden Park in 1994 and having never suffered defeat to the visitors at home, Ireland's threat is laid bare by their recent record of three wins from their past five tests against the men in black.
With Chiefs second-five Quinn Tupaea expected to slot in for Havili disruptions to the All Blacks playing squad should be manageable, unless further Covid cases strike.
Senior players, the likes of captain Sam Cane, Aaron Smith should he be passed fit following a lingering groin strain, Sam Whitelock, Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea, must now assume greater responsibility for leading the team.
Adversity can bring teams together. The All Blacks will hope that is the case but losing three coaches in a matter of days is a not insignificant hurdle for a group under mounting pressure to overcome.